In an earlier posting we found that, thanks to the rising prices of electricity in California, it was now cheaper to “camp” at home in terms of cooking. That using a “camp stove” or Charcoal BBQ was cheaper than my All Electric Kitchen.
Well, it’s winter now, and the mind turns to pondering cold.
I have a little “roll around electric oil filled heater” that takes between 600 and 1500 Watts depending on settings. We tend to use them in individual rooms so the whole house doesn’t need heating in the dead of night or when it’s just me at home. (The main furnace is natural gas. In a sane world the two prices would be tightly coupled as we make a lot of electricity from natural gas in California. Gas turbines being more politically acceptable than nuclear or coal. Unfortunately, that is no longer true.)
I’ve also talked about how I swap to incandescent bulbs in the winter for their combined heat and light. Since I need both, it is a feature to have a ‘light making heater’ in winter.
So I got to wondering…
I’ve got a Coleman Dual-Fuel Lantern. It uses gasoline. Is that source of “light and heat” more, or less, expensive than using electricity for heat?
I can’t guarantee these numbers are exactly right. I’ve only “run the spreadsheet twice”. But they look about right.
Gasoline, here, costs about $4 per gallon. Right now it is down about $3.75 but a while ago it was $4.10 or so. BTU / gallon (yes, I”m going to use traditional units. I’m familiar with them and they ‘work well’ with the local units of sale.) for gasoline ranges from about 114,000 for the “old regular” down to 111,800 for the “new improved” gas. I’m using 111,000.
OK, our electricity ranges from about 20 cents to 30 cents per k-W/hr as you go up the traunches of usage. As winter electric heat is all ‘at the margin’ and ‘at the high usage end’, it costs the most. (The rate structure ‘going forward’ has it headed to $0.5 Real Soon Now).
So one quick “cross check” is just “what is that gasoline worth as just electric-heat-equivalents?” EHEs? Take your 32 kW-hrs and multiply by 1/5 or 0.3 $/kW-hr. I get $6.40 at the low end. $9.60 at the high end.
111,000 BTU / 400 = 277.5 BTU / penny.
1 kW-hr * 3412 BTU/kW-hr = 3412 BTU. At 20 cents, that’s 170 BTU / penny.
At 30 cents electricity, it is 114 BTU / penny.
Unless I’ve “screwed the pooch” somewhere on this, I get 1.63 times as many BTU per penny in a gallon of (poor) gasoline than in electricity. Even at my lowest possible rate. Over double at the higher rate ( 2.4 times ). That is including the rather high taxes on gasoline here in California. The economics would be even better with Diesel or Kerosene at similar prices as they have more BTU / gallon.
So using my Coleman Gasoline Camping Lantern for combined “heat and light” in winter is a very economical proposition. Now. At my very lowest usage traunch. At the 30 cent upper range of now, it’s even more profitable. At the “soon” 50 cent costs, well…
Now before a load of folks run off in a panic to tell me all about carbon monoxide and starts quoting how many people a year kill themselves with charcoal inside the home and how gas light has the same problems and…
I know that already.
The point of this is not that I’m planning on running an unvented combustion heater inside my bedroom and go to bed.
The point is that it is highly economical to do so, so somebody will.
(Me? I’ll likely play with a lantern while staying awake, and with our usual ‘somewhat open window’ with an inch or more open on each side of the house. However, when we “button up” during very cold snaps, or anytime I’m not standing up and moving around, well, that furnace works just fine…)
Also, we DID have ‘gas lights’ back in the 1800s, they are a workable technology. Heck, some of them even ran on “producer gas” that WAS Carbon Monoxide with Hydrogen in it. (Thus the stereotypical vision of committing suicide by ‘sticking your head in the oven’… it doesn’t work with natural gas ovens…) Yes, homes were ‘drafty’ then. Kind of like mine…
(In California, we don’t have double pane windows. We don’t have weather stripping to speak of. Heck, the house didn’t even have insulation when I bought it. I had to blow insulation into the attic and walls.)
So while part of me is dreaming and imagining installing some gas lights in the kitchen and living room… natural gas costing even less than gasoline… mostly I’m just peeved that it IS the most economical solution.
I wonder if anyone has a ‘vented gas light’ for sale?…
But I know I won’t do it. It’s just so much easier to flip the switch on the ‘roll around’ heater. At least I know the reason why kerosene heaters sell so fast at the local Home Depot.
In any case, for heating drafty places like the garage or patio, or even for some less ‘open’ spaces, it is clearly a much more economical solution to buy a kerosene or gasoline heater (or heck, even those propane ‘radiant heaters’ as propane costs less than gasoline here).
Not only is cooking, but also heating, priced out of the electricity market here. Things that make you go “Hmmmm…” and there are easy ways to get light for free out of heating. Hmmmmm…..
I can easily envision a small wall mounted appliance that has a quartz tube with a mantle inside. Flip a switch, it electronically lights. Now you have a nice room light (with a vent to the outside for gases from inside the tube) that also puts a dandy amount of heat into the space. Yes, only useful when cold, but for many places that is a lot of the time. From Alaska down to about the California Border…
I’d love to have one of these in the garage, for example:
Solar-rechargeable battery-powered gas light controllers can be easily retrofitted into existing gas lamps to keep the lights off during daylight hours and cut energy consumption and green-house gas carbon emissions by 50%.
If one can be “solar powered” it can also be “on a switch”…
They have a picture of a ‘modern’ lamp as well:
And In Other Places?
I think this may well also explain why so many places do still use gas lanterns. Places where electricity is just ‘not worth it’. If we are rapidly making California a place where “electricity is just not worth it”, are we headed to being a place that looks just like those “3rd world” places?
I’m thinking “yes”. Heck, I like the ambiance of “old timey lanterns” and lamps. Now that I know they are more economical too…. Well, I think I may well find where that old Aladdin Kerosene mantle lantern went off to in the garage.
http://www.aladdin-us.com/ has an interesting banner at the moment:
WINTER SALE! Keep warm this winter in the bright light of your Aladdin Lamp.
Lots of items on our “READY TO SHIP PAGE” are in stock now.
In rather large bright red type. Somehow I think it has not been lost on them that the heat is a feature…
I’d not at all mind that as the “room light” when watching TV. I’d not even mind having a camping lantern used in the Garage (and would welcome the radiant heat during the winter) nor would I even mind (much) getting my small 1 mantel propane lantern out and using it while washing dishes. (Usually done with the window in front of me open a half inch or so to take ‘kitchen smells’ away during cleanup…)
With a h/t to John F. Hultquist:
Rise in Use of Firewood to Heat Homes Causing Deforestation
The deep economic crisis Greece faces as the recession enters its fourth year, as well as the new fuel taxes introduced by the government, have caused a sharp increase in the price of heating fuel.
The arrival of winter, coupled with record prices for fuel and the fact that household budgets have decreased, has forced tens of thousands of families across Greece to turn off their central heating.
As a result, the old wood-burning stoves and fireplaces have seen a revival, creating a lucrative market for legal importers and salesmen of firewood, but even more so for illegal loggers who collect and sell their product without a permit.
These illegal practices are causing serious damage to Greece’s forests. Deforestation has become a real problem – particularly since the start of December – due to illegal logging, the forest service of the Ministry for the Environment reports. The official figures suggest that thousands of hectares of forest have already suffered severe damage.
Note that this is illegal. Poor folks who are cold don’t worry so much about legality. If they get arrested, it’s a warm bed and a free meal…
Picking up on a theme from Willis at WUWT; it is rich people who can afford things like electric heaters and un-cut forests. We are one EU / World Bank / overspending binge away from Greece. Spending like crazy and having energy costs ‘necessarily skyrocket’.
The result is folks in Greece cutting their trees to stay warm. And one ‘folk’ in California discovering it is cheaper to ‘camp in the living room’…
Greece, and now California, both on that short road back to “3rd World Nation” in terms of how we treat trees and electricity. Sacrificing nature on the altar of “Green Solar & Wind Gaia”…
I also expect that we’ll be seeing more deaths from folks using charcoal for heat, and kerosene heaters indoors. All due to driving electricity to where it will, to quote our president, “necessarily skyrocket”.
In my part of the State there is a ban on fireplaces in new homes. Older homes can keep them (for now…) but there are ‘no burn days’ that get ever more suspiciously in sync with when you would most like to use them. As I don’t “live on the local radio”, more than once I found out I’d used ours to keep the living room warm and pretty on a ‘no burn’ night. Now imagine a “poor folk” over in East Side… (The poor side of town is the east side). Think they will care about “no burn” days? These are the places you go to buy felony class drugs. Think they will care about running an unvented kerosene heater?
I think the necessary conclusion is pretty clear. Making electricity prices artificially high via ‘green mandates’ will result in trees being cut down, deaths from carbon monoxide, and some of us using gasoline more. I’d “had the hots” for a nice little natural gas co-generation unit from Honda. Now I’m realizing that a gasoline fired engine of any kind with a water cooling jacket and some added generators is worth it. I have 2 sitting in the yard. One is the ‘parts bike’ for the other. A 500 cc Honda Sliverwing with V-twin water cooled engine. Just needs plumbing and I’ve got a great little ‘3rd world class’ solution. It makes 12 VDC straight into the battery (add cord to large external battery) and a load of convenient hot water.
IFF I lived a bit more out in the country, I’d be doing that now just for fun (and for running the washer in the garage…).
I can’t be the only person who will think of this kind of thing. So that’s where we will go as a State, as a Greek Nation (or Greek Nation Lite), and as a world. The more we push for electricity out of line with low cost generation: the more we will cut trees, burn corn, burn gasoline and kerosene, and willfully ignore laws that say not to do it. That is what the reality on the ground says. That is what the history says. That’s just what happens.
End Notes On Coleman Lantern
My spreadsheet also includes some interesting numbers about that particular lantern. It holds 2 pints (US) or one quart. That is a 1/4 gallon (US) or $1 of gasoline. The value of that heat and light, at the projected $0.30 /kW-hr rate, is $2.68 per use. So just using my lantern, I can “make” $1.68 per ‘fill’. That runs for about 7 to 8 hours. As I’m ‘up late’ that’s about one whole evening. Call it 6 pm to 2 am. Over a month, that’s $50.
Now I’m willing to walk away from a free $50 a month. Maybe. But if I were a poorer person on the East Side? If I had a cabin in the hills where it is much colder and bills higher? When it is $100 or $150 per month? I can choose to use the gas heater more (screw it, just heat the whole damn house) and probably break even over the electric heaters. But can folks in the rest of New Greece?
How many will die?
How many trees will be murdered?
How many person-years of cold folks, looking at their power bill and choosing food or heat?
It’s just incredibly immoral and wrong to drive electricity prices up above the absolute minimum needed to deliver the most economical supply to the most poor of the world. That ought to be about 7 cents / kW-hr, not my present $0.26 nor the $.30 higher usage, nor the $0.50 “coming soon”.
At 7 cents, there are 487 BTU / penny. About 1.75 times the BTU/cent from gasoline. At THAT cost of electricity the trees stay alive, the gasoline stays in the ground, the kerosene heater is left in the box. People are warm, and not dying, and the world is just a much better place to live.
On the other hand, we may well see a resurgence in “Gas light”…
Now were is that Aladdin lamp…